Adults

FIDF Special Briefing

The Friends of the IDF and the JCC of Syracuse Invite you to a briefing with special guest speaker and a former IDF Spokesperson Lt. Colonel (Res.). An insider view on the operational and strategic situation in Israel, and the challenges and opportunities that Israel is facing. Thursday, March 14th , 7PM at the JCC. Space is limited. Registration is required in advance.
Portrait of former IDF Spokesperson Lt. Colonel (Res.) Jonathan Conricus

Jonathan Conricus is a recently retired IDF Lieutenant Colonel, who served in the IDF for 24 years as a combat commander in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, as a military diplomat, foreign relations expert and international spokesperson. He was the first IDF officer to be seconded to the UN HQ in New York where he provided strategic analysis for UN peacekeeping. He has extensive hands-on experience with international media (hundreds of interviews), think-tanks, NGOs, legislators, militaries, industries and institutions. In his last role in the IDF, he served as the International Spokesperson.

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Adults

Everyone Can Run!

Presented by the Syracuse Chargers Track Club and hosted by the JCC of Syracuse, this FREE six-week program is designed to take you from walking to running! Everyone Can Run Beginners’ Program is a free training program lead by Greg Tuttle, a USATF certified coach.

Join us Wednesdays from 5:30 to 6:30 pm at the JCC. Classes begin February 7 and continue February 14, 21, 28 and March 6, 13.

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Adults

JCC Announces 2024 Annual Meeting and Gala Award Recipients

By Carlett Spike & Erin Hart

The Sam Pomeranz Jewish Community Center of Syracuse is gearing up to hold its 161st Annual Meeting and Gala, presented by naming sponsor, the Wladis Family. The community will come together on Sunday, June 2, 2024 to honor invaluable members of our Syracuse Jewish Community. 

The Annual Meeting and Gala is the JCC’s largest and most important fundraiser of the year. The celebration allows us the opportunity to come together to pay tribute to those who have acted and given so generously. The money raised from this event helps fund the many scholarships awarded each year sending children to the JCC’s summer camp, early childhood development program, after school program and helps mainstream children with special needs. It also benefits those in need to receive discounted fitness classes and meals for senior adults.

A total of four awards will be presented this year as we recognize selfless giving and outstanding service to the JCC and greater Jewish community in Syracuse. 

This year’s honorees represent a wide spectrum of dedication and support. The Kovod Award, which signifies honor and importance, will be presented to JCC board member Kathleen Davis. Kathleen is a Syracuse native and has been involved with the JCC for a number of years. She actively serves on numerous JCC committees including the Annual Meeting & Gala Committee, Super Bowl Raffle fundraiser and Executive Committee.

The JCC’s Kovod Gadol Award, which in Hebrew translates to great honor, will be presented to Cantor Esa Jaffe and Chaim Jaffe. This award is presented each year to honor a single individual or couple who had demonstrated, usually over a period of years, an extraordinary degree of commitment, energy and loyalty to the JCC and greater community. Esa and Chaim are both longtime supporters of the JCC. They are both active in the Syracuse Jewish community and have served on many different organization boards. They have raised their children in the halls of the JCC and continue to give back to the greater community.

Long Standing supporters of the Syracuse Jewish community; Ellen and Howard Weinstein, will be presented with this year’s Hall of Fame Award. Ellen is a past President of the Jewish Federation of CNY and is currently serving as a board member of the Jewish Federations of North America. Howard is a past Vice President of the JCC board of directors and has served as a member of the board for over 10 years. Howard and Ellen are both past Kovod Gadol recipients. Their years of involvement and selfless giving will be recognized at this year’s event.

This year’s Leslie Award, the sixth to be given since it was launched in 2016, will be presented to Leah Goldberg. The Leslie Award recognizes outstanding commitment and service to the JCC and to the local community – the qualities which the award’s namesake, Leslie London Neulander, personified throughout her many selfless volunteer pursuits. Leah has served on numerous committees throughout the Jewish Community. She is a co-chair of the ECDP parent committee and has helped plan numerous fundraisers and family events for the JCC as well as many other Jewish organizations in Syracuse.

“I am looking forward to another year of honoring members of our community who have dedicated invaluable service to the JCC and the local Jewish community,” said Marci Erlebacher, JCC of Syracuse executive director. “They each deserve recognition for their selfless acts and generosity.”

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Adults

Come to the Purim Carnival on March 17, 2024!

Come celebrate with the JCC at this year’s Purim Carnival on Sunday, March 17 from 12-4pm. For Purim, the entire JCC will be transformed into a fun and exciting carnival complete with games, inflatables, face painting, prizes and more.

“Purim is a day of fun and excitement for the community,” says Marci Erlebacher, executive director of the JCC. “It is our way to say thank you to the community that has supported us all year long. Come join us for the most anticipated family event of the year!”

Esther’s café will also be open to serve up a kosher menu including corned beef, knishes and hamantaschen as well as a concession stand with popcorn, cotton candy and warm pretzels. Each year we also host information tables for invited local community organizations. To enhance the experience this year, we will be providing “Passports” for all participants to be stamped at each table. Once individuals fill in their “Passport” they can take it to the prize room for a free prize!

For more information about the Purim Carnival please reach out to Alana Raphael at [email protected].

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Adults

Generations

By Barbara Davis

We moved to Syracuse in 1969.  I was working at OCC and my husband was a graduate student at SU.  I was pregnant with our first child and was worried about childcare.  “You have to go to the JCC,” insisted my colleague, Professor Nancy McCarty.  “It’s the best.”  One did not argue with Nancy McCarty, and she was correct.  It was the best, and my daughter thrived in an excellent program that seemed to do everything right.  Naturally, my second child went to the JCC (on Genesee Street then) as did my third.  They learned to swim in the indoor pool and went to Camp Friendly in the summer, as did most of their friends.  

When, a generation later, my daughters established their own families in Central New York, there was no doubt where they would send their children for preschool.  By then, the JCC had moved to DeWitt.  By the time my youngest grandchild was born, the JCC even had an infant care program.  So six more young members of my family enjoyed the benefits of the JCC’s outstanding preschool.

Mine is not an exceptional story.  There are many families who have enrolled several generations of children in the JCC, drawn by a program that for decades has been at the forefront of quality, child-focused, reliable and accessible care for infants, toddlers and preschoolers.  The indoor pool is a memory, but now there are playgrounds and a gym and gymnastics, sports,  music, dance and karate.

The JCC’s executive director, Marci Erlebacher, recently held a meeting of the Center’s board of directors and, looking around the room, realized that three of her board members had attended the Center’s Early Childhood Development Program when they were small.  Now they were serving in a leadership capacity for the organization and enrolling their own children in ECDP. 

Federation board chair Neil Rosenbaum’s daughter recently had a baby.  Returning to work when her daughter was 6 months old was made much easier by the fact that quality care was available for her at the JCC on a schedule that accommodated her workday.  Selecting the JCC’s Early Childhood Development Program was a no-brainer.  Not only was it the best program, but it was the same one she and her three siblings had attended when they were little.  It was like coming home.

These are just a few of the examples of the generational impact of Syracuse’s Jewish Community Center.  In addition to providing quality childcare, the Center is home to three of the community’s most important Jewish institutions: the Jewish Federation, the Jewish Community Foundation and the Syracuse Hebrew Day School.  It also offers the only kosher senior lunch program in upstate New York and administers the PJ Library Program.  At various times in the past, the J has also housed the Jewish War Veterans, the Epstein School, the Syracuse Community Hebrew School, a Sephardic high holiday congregation and the nascent Shaarei Torah congregation.  

The Center also hosts many communal Jewish celebrations, including KlezFest, a community sukkah, a Chanukah party, a decades-old Purim carnival, the Matzo Bakery and the Israeli Scouts.   Each week at ECDP, children celebrate Shabbat and learn to recite the appropriate blessings for kiddush and hamotzi.  They enjoy apples and honey for Rosh HaShanah, latkes and sufganiyot for Chanukah and hold model seders in their classrooms for Passover.  Even though a significant percentage of the children enrolled in the program are not Jewish, they all learn about Jewish celebrations.  This has led to some interesting results.  A friend of mine named Jim Doherty told me that while he had been very happy with the ECDP program, he was somewhat relieved that his daughter was going to public school  kindergarten “because she wants to light Shabbas candles every Friday.”  Another cute story involves a little boy whose family held weekly Sunday dinners.  At one, the parents asked, “Who wants to say grace?”  The 4-year-old ECDP child raised his hand eagerly.  His parents were a bit skeptical.  “Do you really know how to say grace?” they asked.  “Yes,” he said and began “Baruch atah Adonai….”

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Adults

From Y to J: A Brief History of Jewish Community Centers

An article from the Jewish Telegraphic Service defines JCCs as “general community centers with a Jewish flavor” which have “catered to both Jewish immigrants and non-Jews as their function has shifted over time.”  It notes that the typical JCC  “acts as a kind of Jewish YMCA, providing anything from preschools to summer camps to day programming for senior citizens regardless of religion. Many also have fitness facilities and swimming pools and offer gym memberships to Jews and non-Jews. Many of these programs will include culturally Jewish content.”  

So, really, how Jewish are Jewish community centers?  Are they supposed to be Jewish?  Are they supposed to be more Jewish?  The JCCA, the umbrella organizations for the 350 JCCs in North America, says that “The JCC Movement comprises many communities of Jews (and non-Jews) spread across North America, with very different approaches to Jewish living and learning.”  It includes JCCs among all Jewish institutions (schools, synagogues, museums, libraries, camps), as both destinations for Jewish engagement and portals to Jewish communal life. It firmly states, however, that “No institution is THE destination, since it is the individual who determines the journey’s path.”  Going further, the JCCA states that “synagogues look at Jewish life mostly through the lens of Judaism, the religion of the Jewish people. JCCs look at Jewish life mostly through the lens of Jewishness, or the more general culture of the Jewish people.”  And reiterates that “it is up to the individual to choose which approach to Jewish life is meaningful to them” because the JCC Movement “doesn’t presume to define what being Jewish should mean to its members.”

Tablet magazine examined the unique position of JCCs, noting that “Jewish community centers had been around since the interwar years, a cross between a settlement house, an urban institution that had once attended to the varied needs of the community’s immigrant population, and a Y….  The Jewish community center served as a cultural clearinghouse where the Jews of the neighborhood could go for a swim, play basketball, attend a lecture, take a drawing class…. It deliberately maintained an open-door policy, a nondenominational perspective, or what one of its supporters called a ‘non-doctrinaire commitment to the universals in the Jewish heritage.’”

A Brandeis University study reported that “The mid-20th century Jewish community center was built on the model of a brick-and-mortar, full-service, membership-based community center,” but noted that “this model is increasingly out of step with today’s reality.”  As society in general became more inclusive in allowing Jews into formerly exclusive entities and as racial and gender barriers to membership were being challenged and dropped everywhere, JCCs also changed, as did their financial model.  Whereas, once they were membership organizations reliant upon dues, they instead developed fee-for-service programs, which today account for 80 percent of their funding.

Today, outside of large metropolitan areas, non-Jews account for the majority of JCC membership.  In cities with relatively small Jewish populations, “in order to ensure that the Jewish community has the best possible facility, or even any facility at all, the JCC must open its doors to all comers,” said Randy Freedman, executive director of the York, PA JCC.  “If we want the privilege of a JCC, it has to be this way,” he added. “There aren’t enough Jews in the community to support these kinds of services.”  John Sandager, an evangelical Christian who is the treasurer of the Albuquerque JCC,  presented the situation from a different angle.  He appreciates the way his JCC brings together different faiths.  “When you work out at the JCC, one of the wonderful values of the JCC is it’s not Christians on these machines and Jews on those machines — it’s a community,” he said.

Still, majority non-Jewish membership has created a balancing act for many JCCs as they work to try to accommodate the needs of both non-Jewish members and less or more observant Jewish members.  Jim Grumbacher, a York area businessman, was one of the primary movers behind the JCC’s decision in the 1980s to build a larger facility and actively welcome non-Jews as members. As a result, membership has expanded, the facility is first class, the center has a steady stream of Jewish programming and, in Grumbacher’s view, relations between Jews and non-Jews in York have improved. But Grumbacher confesses that he sometimes wonders whether the JCC has lost a certain sense of Jewishness that permeated the kibitzing and give-and-take in the old, smaller and mostly Jewish facility. “I’m somewhat conflicted over the results,” he says, “but I think it reflects what’s happening in the larger American society. I don’t know that there was another solution.”

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Adults

JCC’s 2023 Annual Meeting and Gala

Food, fun, and fundraising for a good cause were the hallmarks of the JCC’s Annual Meeting and Gala. More than 200 community members gathered at the beautiful Owera Vineyards in Cazenovia, New York for the Sunday, June 4 event, to enjoy cocktails and a kosher meal catered by Essen New York Deli of Brooklyn.

“Phenomenal” was the word Marci Erlebacher, executive director of the Sam Pomeranz Jewish Community Center, used to describe the ceremony. “Everyone had a great time. The feedback I’m getting is what a successful event we had.”

In its 160th year, The Annual Meeting and Gala is a community event that supports various JCC scholarships for the Early Childhood Development Program (ECDP), Summer Camp including support for children with special needs, the After School Program, and more. During the event, outgoing board members were recognized, new officers were sworn in, and three community members — Shai Jaffe, Steven Wladis, and outgoing board president Steven Sisskind — were honored for their service, dedication, and contributions to the JCC. This year a video highlighting the honorees’ reflections on receiving these awards was also shown during the ceremony.

Jaffe received the Kovod award, which signifies honor and importance, and is given to a community member who has taken an active and outstanding role in events and programs. Jaffe, a graduate of Syracuse Hebrew Day School, works with the Afterschool and Camp programs as well as the ECDP.

Wladis received the Kovod Gadol award, which means great honor, and is given to a community member who has demonstrated extraordinary commitment, energy, and loyalty to the JCC and greater community. Wladis is managing principal at OneDigital, the VP of finance for Congregation Beth Sholom-Chevra Shas (CBS-CS), is actively involved with The Wladis Hats & Gloves Foundation, and has served as a JCC board member for nearly 20 years. “It’s extremely humbling to receive the Kovod Gadol Award, but also very meaningful, given that my father is in the JCC’s Hall of Fame,” Wladis said.

Sisskind received the Hall of Fame award, which is given to an individual who has dedicated themselves to the Syracuse Jewish community and to the advancement of the JCC. Sisskind is the owner of Sisskind Funeral Service, LLC and has served as president of the JCC’s Board of Directors for the last decade. “This year’s gala was everything I could have hoped for and more,” Sisskind said. “The video was spectacular, the food was delicious, the room was full, but not crowded, and everyone was just so happy to be there!”

After serving as president for an unprecedented 10 years, Sisskind passed the gavel to Phil Rubenstein, president of Syracuse’s United Radio and VP of the JCC board.
The Annual Meeting and Gala is the JCC’s biggest fundraiser, and Erlebacher was happy to report that the goal for this year’s event was met. “Without this event and without the generosity of our community we wouldn’t be able to give out as much in scholarships.” She added, “[The event] also means a lot to us because we’re honoring people who have been of service.”

 

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Adults

JCC’s 2023 Honorees

The JCC’s Annual Meeting and Gala is happening Sunday, June 4th at 11am at Owera Vineyards in Cazenovia, New York. The organization’s largest fundraiser of the year, this celebration will mark the 160th anniversary of the event.

The Annual Meeting and Gala funds various scholarships that support the Early Childhood Development Program (ECDP), Summer Camp including support for children with special needs, the After School Program, and more. At the meeting, outgoing board members will be recognized and new officers will be sworn in — including a new incoming president. The event will be kosher Va’ad supervised, and back by popular demand a deli meal will be catered by Essen NY Deli. 

The JCC is looking forward to another successful Annual Meeting and Gala. “As our largest fundraiser of the year, it is important that we come together to recognize the hard work of our volunteers as well as raise money to help defray the costs of the many scholarships that we award each year” says Executive Director, Marci Erlebacher. “This is a bittersweet year for the JCC and especially important as we recognize Steven Sisskind and his 10 years of service as President of the Board. He will be passing the torch of leadership to incoming President, Phillip Rubenstein.”

The highlight of the night is recognizing community members as honorees for their service, dedication, and contributions to the JCC. This year’s honorees are:

Steven Wladis, who will be receiving the Kovod Gadol award. Kovod Gadol in Hebrew translates to “Great Honor”. This award is presented each year to honor a single individual or couple who has demonstrated, usually over a period of years, an extraordinary degree of commitment, energy and loyalty to the JCC and greater community. Wladis is the Managing Principal at OneDigital, the VP of finance for Congregation Beth Sholom-Chevra Shas (CBS-CS), is actively involved with The Wladis Hats & Gloves Foundation, and has served on the JCC Board of Directors for nearly 20 years. A graduate of Babson College, Wladis currently resides in Fayetteville with his family. “This is a huge honor for me,” Wladis said. “Growing up, we were raised to help others and give back when we could. I’m not one to seek out recognition and it’s a little uncomfortable to receive it, but this honor is greatly appreciated.”


Shai Jaffe, who will be receiving the Kovod award. The Kovod award, which signifies honor and importance, is awarded annually to those members who have been active in events and programs in an outstanding way. Jaffe is a native of Syracuse who currently works at the JCC with the ECDP, After School Program, and Summer Day Camp. A graduate of Syracuse Hebrew Day School, Jaffe was a camper at the JCC for many years before transitioning to the role of a camp counselor. “I am happy to receive this award,” Jaffe said. “It makes me proud to know that I am doing a good job and I am helping others.”


Steven Sisskind, who will be receiving the Hall of Fame award. The Hall of Fame was established in 2009. It was set up to recognize and celebrate individuals who have dedicated themselves to the Syracuse Jewish community and to the advancement of the JCC. Sisskind is the owner of Sisskind Funeral Service, LLC, and has served as president of the JCC’s Board of Directors for the last decade. He is a graduate of the Maxwell School at Syracuse University and Simmons School of Mortuary Science, and has been a Syracuse resident ever since college. “Anytime you receive recognition from your community is special,” Sisskind said. “It’s a personal satisfaction to know that you’ve made a difference. But what is especially humbling is to receive such an honor from the true heart of my chosen home.”


The JCC will also honor Sisskind as outgoing president of the Board. He will be recognized for his 10 years of outstanding service to the organization. Sisskind is honored to have served as president of the JCC Board for the past 10 years, “I’ve witnessed our JCC grow, endowments and membership multiply and our ECDP and children’s programs flourish,” he said. “We have an incredible team, and they make me extremely proud.” Phillip Rubenstein, president of Syracuse’s United Radio and current President Elect of the JCC board, will be sworn in as the new board president.

To purchase tickets, please contact Erin Hart at [email protected] or 315-445-2360 ext. 112.


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